WHEN I WAS 14, I was invited to attend a pro-life retreat. I was raised Catholic, I went to an all-girls Catholic school, it seemed like an issue I’d need to take a stand on — so I went. It was hard, at that age, to see how I couldn’t be pro-life: after all, who can declare themselves “against” life? And the people that championed the pro-life movement were people that I trusted — my teachers, my classmates, their parents, all the friendly, loving faces in our parish community.
I was silent during most of the retreat, a little daunted by the fervor that everyone else brought to the discussion. The girls talked about their experiences going door-to-door, asking for donations to fight against the daily murder of the “unborn.” Later, we settled down with cookies, and one of the organizers played Life Is Beautiful, the 1997 movie about a Jewish Italian family’s struggle for survival in a Nazi concentration camp. I got the message — life is beautiful — but I didn’t quite see the rest of the connection: Were they suggesting that the termination of pea-sized pregnancies was the same thing as the mass slaughter of Jews? Surely not.
The retreat crescendoed around a presentation about Gianna Beretta Molla, a woman who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2004 for refusing medical care that would have saved her life — but would have threatened the life of her fetus. It was her fourth pregnancy; her other children were aged three, five, and six. She died seven days after giving birth, and her children went to the Vatican years later to see their mother made a saint. The woman presenting the story turned to me as she finished: “Isn’t it beautiful?”
Read the full article in the Los Angeles Review of Books